You’ve seen these poor bastards many times. A huge weather event is coming to town–we call them cyclones, but you might call them hurricanes or typhoons–and look, here’s a TV news reporter, in some sort of raincoat, sou’wester and wellies, holding onto a tree or a telephone poll, because there’s lethal wind, and quite possibly horizontal rain, and God only knows what else, and this reporter’s job is to tell you, from inside the weather event, what it’s like, without quite getting swept away in it. In the US a number of years back, Michelle and I were enchanted by the Weather Channel coverage of a hurricane, and there was this guy whose whole job appeared to be deliberately throwing himself into the path of deadly weather to report live (“it sure is windy and wet out here!”).
Tonight, I’m that guy. I’m all those guys. I’ve got my heavy weather gear on, and my sou’wester hat, my wellies, and I’m lashed to a palm tree and my camera guy is yelling over the wind and the rain that he doesn’t get paid enough for this crap, but here we are. I’m depressed. I’m feeling lousy. I’m inside the weather event, reporting to you live.
The first question is probably, “how do you feel?” I feel terrible, sour, a little bitter and out of sorts. I feel like a piece of fruit that’s gone off. I have a miserable dose of mild depression. What I have is much like a nasty head cold, but it’s your mind, rather than your lungs and nasal passages. Think of how you feel exhausted, slug-like, because there’s an infection war raging inside you as your immune system takes on the intruders. Mild depression feels like that, only there’s no fountains of snot.
And you know what? Fountains of snot, or something physical, visible, obvious, would make this kind of thing much easier to deal with, because other people around you would be able to see that you’re sick. You’d get sympathy. People would cut you a bit of slack. Guys would probably get accused of being over-dramatic about their “man-glums”.
As it is, you can have this sort of depression and go about your daily life, and nobody would know, let alone care. You have little to no energy, you feel a certain numbness, a kind of remoteness from things, that your body is occupying space in the world but your mind is somewhere else feeling like the potato at the bottom of a 10 kilogram sack of potatoes.
You know how freezing cold winter’s days in countries where they get snow and frost and icicles, and there’s skating and skiing and toboganning and snowpersons, sound picturesque and lovely? That you can imagine dressing up in appropriate winter clothing, with beautiful handmade mittens and hats, and having a marvellous romantic time with your beloved in the snow?
Mild depression is like winter in Australia, or at least like it used to be. Where it’s wet and cold and the wind will go right through you like a sword. Where there are puddles so vast and deep you could drown. Where no amount of clothing helps warm you up. Where you feel cold and miserable and shivery all the time, and everybody talks about how horribly cold it is, and how much they hate the smug people who talk about their pot belly stoves. Mild depression is rain that lasts all weekend long, but clears up in time for Monday morning, but it’s still somehow cold and windy, as if to remind you to feel lousy even though the sun is at least theoretically out.
Mild depression means you can get out of bed. You can shower and dress. “You don’t look sick.” You feel abstractly pissed off, in that you can’t identify exactly what it is that’s bugging you. It could be anything or everything. It could be nothing. It could be random brain chemistry, and that thought gives you no comfort whatever. You can, as I did today, function. You can do your job, and hate every moment, feeling every moment scraping at your skin as it goes by, as if time had barbs.
So here I am, reporting live. So far the wind is not that strong, and the rain is not even horizontal. It’s miserable, but not deadly. I can still feel my hands. I’m shivering; I’m not yet numb. More serious depression makes you feel numb to everything around you, as if you’re not there at all. I know that what I’m feeling at the moment is just “the sags” while I’m waiting for my latest testosterone “power-up” injection to take effect. There’s nothing “wrong”. It’s just chemistry. Just weather in my head.